How Many Times is Jesus Coming Back?
Ingenious inventors of religious doctrines know few bounds when it comes to making Christianity more complex than it is in reality. Chief among these are the End Times gurus of the past 150 years. Some of them became fabulously wealthy peddling the Word of fear. Spooking Christians for a living is not a bad gig for the fear monger, but it has been immensely detrimental to the church.
“Christian” and “conspiracy theorist” are now almost synonymous terms in American nomenclature. Christians often charge the world system with the production of fake news, but what about us? When profiteering false teachers enter Christ’s church, in order to make their money, it is bad news for the body of Christ. In addition, there is no better way to rile up the sheep than an End Times prophecy conference (with an admission fee, of course!).
Essential to Christian doctrine is the imminent return of King Jesus, the Messiah. The Son of God came into the world, and He promised to come again. Before His departure, He spoke with His disciples on the Mount of Olives. In this discourse (Mt 24–25; Mk 13; Lk 21), the Lord Jesus revealed much about the sign of the times and the need to be prepared for His return. The nature of His second advent has been of much interest and dispute since the rise of the Dispensationalists in the late 19th century.
In simplest terms, Dispensationalism is a doctrine of division. It separates ethnic Israel from Christ’s church. It multiplies the number of covenants, and it causes Jesus to come back more than once. Despite the confusion created by the increased complexity in their system, Dispensationalism has been very popular among Evangelicals since its invention.
So let us try to simplify what has been made far too complex. Although there is more content in the Bible than I will include here, the point is to capture the plot points in God’s story at its conclusion.
First, God’s predetermined plan, which includes the end, was established by eternal decree derived from the eternal will and good pleasure of Almighty God. Stated another way, the sovereign God has a plan for His created universe, and in His wisdom and power the plan will be executed on cue.
Second, history proves that at His appointed times, God has fulfilled His plan by executing the events foretold by His chosen prophets. Chief among these events was the first advent of Jesus Christ.
Third, it is significant that the incarnate Word of God, Himself prophesied of future events already hinted at by various prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled a portion of the prophet’s foretold events. He will fulfill the not yet portions of their prophesies at His second coming.
As a side note, theologians invariably speak of Christ’s first and second coming, so I have already given you the answer to our titled question. It is both historical and universal among Bible-believing Christians that there are only two advents. Employing word gymnastics, Dispensationalists will claim that Jesus’ second advent has some extra advents that they neatly wrap up into the term, “second coming.”
The rapture theory has Jesus coming to rapture His church away from the world (second coming), as it descends into the seven-year tribulation period. At the end of that period of intrigue, Jesus and His church come a third time to set up His earthly kingdom. After His 1,000-year reign, He comes again a fourth time to put down the rebellion of His subjects led by Satan.
Dispensationalists refuse to use the terms third and fourth coming, but they would not deny the events of my previous paragraph unless they have some varied version of the timing of the rapture. Yes, they cannot agree on that either with 4 different possibilities to choose from (ie. pre-, post-, mid-, and pre-wrath)!
In my fourth point, in which I present the simple version of Christ’s second coming, I will sequence events using letters to avoid confusion with my numerical sequence of the major points in God’s drama. Thus, my fourth point is the final act in history’s drama.
A. God the Father has appointed a day for the glorified Christ to leave His throne in heaven to come and judge the nations of the earth, that is, to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5).
B. The day of judgment is also called the Day of the Lord and the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ. At His coming on this day, known only to God. He will descend to earth in a war-like manner. Shouts and trumpets, angels and souls will be with Him to wage war against the adversaries of God.
C. The resurrection of all who ever lived will occur. Souls and bodies will be conjoined. An obvious and immediate separation will occur, as those resurrected to life will have glorified bodies and those resurrected for judgment will have bodies prepared to endure eternal punishment, in the fiery hell of the lake of fire that burns forever, but where the worm does not die (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).
D. With Christ’s sheep, the people of His pasture, gathered by the angels from the four winds, all people from all history and every place will stand before the great white throne of God (Rev 20:11), which is the judgment seat of the One who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18; 2 Cor 5:10). The bride of Christ, His beloved church, will join Him on His judgment throne, while men and demons who lived and died in rebellion against God and His only begotten Son will receive their eternal sentence, before being told to depart from Him who sits on His glorious throne as Lord of all.
The so-called rapture (Gk. Parousia) is the angelic gathering of the elect to bring all those in Christ to be caught up together to meet the coming Lord and join Him in judgment of angels and men (1 Thess 4:13–5:11). Glorified and forever with Him, the judgment is fierce and just against the unrighteous (Rev 19:11–21). Even the heavens and the earth are subject to the all-consuming fire (2 Pet 3:10–12). God’s people are saved from His wrath, just as it is written (1 Thess 1:10).
E. When He has finished with the fiery act of purification, a new heaven and a new earth will be the reality for the children of light, and they will dwell in righteousness without sin (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21–22). From that day forth and forever, prosperity and security will be theirs in heavenly Zion, the New Jerusalem, the city of God, where they will dwell in fulfillment of God’s promises, forever. He is their God, and they are His people.
My dear reader, the King of glory, our Lord Jesus Christ is coming only one more time to this earth. It will be a day like none in history, nor will it ever be repeated. The nations will be gathered in defiance, but the holy nation of God’s chosen, redeemed, regenerated, resurrected, and then glorified will indeed be caught up into His everlasting arms. That will be the climax to God’s story with the resolution, the afterglow, being nothing less than heaven on earth. Jesus is coming once again, and you will be there…for better or for worse. Are you ready for this?
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 28, 2021